Rick Hahn offers initial estimate of 2023 White Sox payroll

In building this year’s Offseason Plan Project, I erred in nudging people toward making AJ Pollock exercise his option.

On the bright side, it looks like my payroll projection of $190 million — or what the White Sox spent last year, because calculations vary — is roughly on target.

Rick Hahn spoke to reporters at the general manager meetings in Las Vegas on Tuesday, where he issued an updated forecast after the Sox bought out Pollock and Josh Harrison to clean up the week’s loose ends.

The team’s estimated 2022 payroll was $196 million, according to Fangraphs.com. As for 2023, Hahn said, “The candid answer is we’re not sure yet.”

“We’re still going through a budgeting process internally,” he said. “My general expectations are that it will be somewhere in the vicinity of where it was in 2022. But I don’t have a firm number in hand just yet.”

It doesn’t make sense to go lower than what they spent this past season, even if the White Sox missed out on expected postseason revenue in 2022, because any reduction would kneecap their efforts to get over this hump. But Jerry Reinsdorf has a history of reducing spending a year after expanding it when the results fall short — and the results often do — so I didn’t want to count on him rubber-stamping another major increase, even if now is the time to flex whatever financial muscle they have.

The hope is that Reinsdorf isn’t married to capping the spending short of $200 million if an opportunity presents itself, because there’s significant financial relief after 2024. Luis Robert has the only guaranteed contract on the 2025 books at $15 million. Dylan Cease will be in his final year arbitration. Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and Aaron Bummer will have team options. Any other salaries are negligible unless Michael Kopech or Andrew Vaughn become dudes, so any inefficient contract to Brandon Nimmo or whoever could be dealt with one way or another.


As for the ways Hahn might allocate that payroll space, second base remains open after the White Sox declined Harrison’s option, and right field hasn’t been solved since the Obama administration.

For the first time since Adam Eaton’s first stint with the White Sox, they finally have a credible internal solution, at least for most of the season. Oscar Colás could’ve been a candidate to start in Chicago over the last two months of the 2022 regular season, but while Hahn wasn’t interested in bringing a new passenger aboard a listing ship, he’s taken the safety off the 2023 possibilities.

“I don’t think [Opening Day is] necessarily too much of an ask,” Hahn said at baseball’s general managers meetings Tuesday. […]

“We’ll head to camp and see where we’re at,” Hahn said of the Cuban born Colas, 24. “Obviously, there will be offseason check-ins as well and see where the progress is at. But he impressed us last year and is on a real good trajectory to contribute in a meaningful way as soon as next year.”

But while that could be considered the only outfield vacancy, Hahn acknowledged Eloy Jiménez’s success at a designated hitter, which marks a shift away from the mindset that Jiménez needs to own left field. With Pollock departing and Hahn conceding that Vaughn should be a first baseman, the White Sox have playing time for at least one defensively capable corner outfield regardless of Colás’ timetable.

(Hahn also said that Pollock’s choice didn’t surprise him because the outfield class is lefty-heavy, so Pollock’s skill set might be in demand even if he’s on the lesser side of a platoon from here on out.)

Now, regarding Vaughn, Hahn was a bit cagey when it comes to his deployment:

“Vaughn is a first baseman. That’s how he was drafted,” said Hahn of the 24-year-old who was selected third overall in the 2019 Draft. “Does it mean he’s going to be our first baseman next year? Not necessarily.

“He wasn’t either of the past two seasons. But in the end, his best defensive position is first base and perhaps ultimately when the time comes and he settles into that position, you are asking a lot less of him and perhaps that even increases his offensive production as a result.”

Hahn sometimes slips into the passive voice when it comes to the roster, as though its shortcomings are unfortune developments that came out of nowhere, rather than byproducts — or often straight-up products — of choices made and risks taken.

When he says Vaughn isn’t necessarily going to be the first baseman for the 2023 White Sox, it opens the door to trade possibilities, which strikes me as reasonable. When he continues by saying that Vaughn wasn’t a first baseman the last two seasons, he invites speculation that he failed to learn the lesson. I’d like to tilt toward the former, but the inability to thoroughly address the same position year after year after year after year after year sows doubt where there shouldn’t be any.

Touching on the other areas of need, Hahn left second base an open question after buying out Harrison’s club option. He said a favorite could emerge from the internal candidates, but he left open the possibility of blocking them with an external solution:

“We obviously have the internal options right now: Romy and Leury, Mendick, Sosa,” Hahn said. 

“But it is an area we feel we’ll spend some time this offseason seeing if there’s a way to get better.”

Hahn also said the White Sox could use a starting pitcher, but beyond the typical mindset that there’s no such thing as too much pitching, Hahn pointed to the 2023 schedule, which will be the first to ever have all of the other 29 teams on it.

“With the changes in the schedule next year you might need a couple of them,” Hahn said of spot starters with remaining minor-league options. “And by that I mean there’s fewer repeaters in your division, so when the Philadelphia Phillies come to town and we get a rainout, we’re going to have to make up that game the next day or two days later. Having multiple guys you can pull from the minors to possibly make that start is going to be important to clubs, not just us.”

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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knoxfire30

Sox have 1 legit major league outfielder right now, they probably have 1 option in the minors in colas… you cant leave this off season and not have traded for or signed someone like Nimmo, Bientendi, Conforto, etc…. has to happen. Eloy will dh, vaughn will play 1st, and away we go. Could make they case they should bring in 2 of those type guys.

peanutsNcrackerjack

It’s time to make the deal for Bryan Reynolds.

Papa Giorgio

Fantastic photo.

To Err is Herrmann

Is that a peppermint mocha latte?

To Err is Herrmann

I was crushed by the 2020-21 Eaton/LaRussa offseason. I really thought if they added a real quality bat at RF they had a shot that year. I like Grifol, that’s an upgrade for sure. He sounds like he was born ready. (Interviews with my middle school friends would recount how many times I got thrown into and locked in my locker). Still, because of past two offseasons, I cannot find it in me to hope for much. I would like to be proven wrong, but the disappointment over the past 2 offseasons is right there.

calcetinesblancos

Extra drizzle, extra foam.

calcetinesblancos

That would be so White Sox if they let Abreu walk and then trade Vaughn. I also still don’t understand what was gained by not playing Colas in 2022, especially if you expect him to contribute in 2023. And why is Hahn suggesting Colas might contribute in 2023? What more do you want to see from the kid before you give him a shot Rick?

As for the rest of our holes, either sign legit talent or let the youth take the position. No more Josh Harrisons or AJ Pollocks; when you go that route you’re getting mediocre (at best) production and preventing a younger player from getting the reps and improving. Lose/lose.

670WMAQtheElder

More time in triple A. We know from past experience that rushing guys to MLB too quickly doesn’t work out very well if they are not mentally ready. Sox should sign a FA RF for 1-2 yr. contract at a reasonable value and let Colas develop. Like Pederson, Conforto or Benintendi. Or trade a RP like Lopez to AZ for one of their surplus OFs to play RF for a while then move over to LF when Colas shows up, and then platoon the FA OF and make him the 4th guy or a mid season trade.

calcetinesblancos

Colas is 24, has played in Japan, and last year he hit well at both AA and AAA. Do we really need to wait until he’s nearing 30 to give him a shot?

dwjm3

Personally, I’d stick Colas in left and Nimmo/Robert in right. Nimmo being a 5 win player could hopefully produce enough to offset a learning curve by Colas early in the season.

Wayne

Colas has the arm for RF and played more games in CF last year. He probably gets RF.

upnorthsox

Japan is not the majors, or even AAA. And he hadn’t played since 2019.

Last edited 19 days ago by upnorthsox
Right Size Wrong Shape

And it wasn’t even the Japanese majors.

calcetinesblancos

I honestly don’t see the relevance of any of that.

As Cirensica

Andrew Vaughn would have loved to have the opportunity to further his development in Japan or anywhere.

Wayne

And why is Hahn suggesting Colas might contribute in 2023? What more do you want to see from the kid before you give him a shot Rick?”

Because “The White Sox Way” is to get injured in spring training doing something dumb while trying to prove you belong. Also, I think he is ready, and most think he is ready. But if he starts in AAA (or injured and gets a rehab assignment) he may show regression at AAA. Injury and regression makes everything a might. Don’t put that curse on me!

calcetinesblancos

I mean, if he looks completely lost for months, go ahead and send him back down. But even Mike Trout struggled at first; the idea that all is lost if a guy doesn’t rake the second he gets to the MLB level is ridiculous. I also love any sort of insinuation that there’s a better option for RF than Colas. He’s our best all around player in the system, and we all know the Sox won’t sign a big name free agent.

Trooper Galactus

Ah yes, because Mike Trout is what is usually the end result of these situations. Never mind whether or not Colas is ready, it would just be nice to have actual, legitimate depth, rather than hoping and praying some kid can get the job done across 162 games.

670WMAQtheElder

Pollock was supposed to be in RF until Eloy hurt himself. Engel wasn’t as good as he used to be. Vaughn was a better hitter, so that was that: Sheets and Vaughn in RF. And no way was Eloy going back into the OF in 2022.

soxfan

Did anyone do an OPP that cut costs while remaining competitive? If so, the first two moves have been made with Harrison and Pollock moving on. I don’t know how much money the Sox would have to eat to move Grandal’s salary, but let’s say you gave him away and paid half of the $18M for $9M in savings. Then trade Hendriks for prospects and save another $18M. Then Abreu and Cueto come off the books. That’s like $60M off of last year’s salary.

Harrison and Pollock are fungible and replaced by pre-arb guys to be the utility infielder and fourth OF.Grandal is addition by subtraction unless you believe he’s going to rebound.Losing Hendriks hurts but Jim’s written repeatedly about the over-investment in and misallocation of resources to securing leads that can’t be obtained. Graveman becomes closer and we cross our fingers than Bummer and Lopez stay healthy.Abreu is replaced by Vaughn who can’t replicate Abreu’s performance but aligns positions better to increase the overall value of OF, DH, and 1B.Spend half of the $60M saved on another starter (I’d take Cueto for $10M), OF, and 2B.Boom – $160M payroll, probably no worse for wear.

Edit: not advocating this plan but won’t be surprised in the least to see some cost slashing.

Last edited 19 days ago by soxfan
armchairGM

i did an offseason plan with a 180 mil payroll that didn’t include Pollock or Harrison.

however, i did it before baseball trade values updated their player values for their simulator, so i now have one impossible trade in there

HallofFrank

I’m not sure why you think the Sox could replace Grandal, Abreu, Hendriks, Harrison, Pollock, and Cueto with $30m on the open market. Your internal replacements (Abreu—> Vaughn; Hendriks—>Graveman) already start the Sox off “worse for the wear.” That would need to be a $30m extremely well spent to recoup the lost value.

soxfan

You’re ignoring what I said about aligning the other positions.

Assuming Vaughn is a replacement level 1B. That’s an avoided negative 2 WAR. Assume Jimenez is the DH. That’s another avoided negative 1ish WAR. So you get a virtual 3 WAR player just by not forcing those guys to play out of position, plus Abreu’s $15M (or half thereof in my cost cutting hypothetical) to add value elsewhere.

In terms of Hendriks and Graveman, Graveman pitched more innings, albeit 0.7 less WAR. The risk here is not so much a decline from Graveman to Hendriks (especially since we’re re-spending half of the Hendriks savings with another rotation player), it’s whether or not the rest of the bullpen can play “next man up.” Bummer, Lopez, Banks, Graveman and Lambert all had ERA+ over 120 so that’s 5/7 of a cromulent bullpen without Hendriks.

In terms of replacing Grandal, I expect him to be below replacement level so that’s not much of a bar to clear. Harrison and Pollock are solid roster fillers but shouldn’t be impossible to replace. And like I said I’d try to resign Cueto.

Again – not advocating – just won’t be surprised.

HallofFrank

I’m not ignoring you, I just think you’re underrating how much value is lost in that group (or overrating how much value the Sox can find from those position changes + $30m on the open market). I don’t disagree that something like this may be how the offseason shakes out. But I disagree that the roster will be “probably no worse for the wear” if it shakes out that way.

jorgefabregas

I think the projection systems may still be having trouble accounting for differences in 2022 minors/majors offensive environments, but wanted to note that Steamer’s 2023 wRC+ projection for Colas is 115, 4th-highest on the Sox. Add in plus-defense in right field and you’ve got a stew going.

Last edited 19 days ago by jorgefabregas
texag10

Rays are reportedly open for business with a 40 man roster crunch. Lowe would be nice but we definitely wouldn’t be the only ones interested.

Trooper Galactus

Odds are the Rays have little interest in most of what the White Sox have to offer. What we consider top-10 prospects in our system are spare parts to them.

upnorthsox

As I was digging around I noticed that Johnny Cueto has never had a QO which means in theory that the Sox could QO him. I don’t think that would happen but thought it was interesting none the less.